For the past eight weeks we have been watching the time. For the most part it has been unbearable.
Last year my parents bought AJ and PJ a cuckoo clock. At the time I could not think of a worse present for them to receive. A cuckoo clock meant noise, lots of constant and persistent noise. It was more noise that I did not need.
Nevertheless, in the hallway outside the boys’ bedroom, the cuckoo clock was put up on the wall. To AJ and PJ it was a prized possession. Ticking and swinging away in all of its glory, it was the reminder they hardly needed that their grandparents loved them so much.
In time, the noise of the cuckoo clock became something we became used to. It became part of our watercolour background.
Eight weeks ago the cuckoo clock stopped working, stopped ticking. At the same time I stopped breathing. Not a suffocating unconscious stopped breathing. Not the gasping for air stopped breathing. The silent stopped breathing. The kind of stopped breathing that happens and replaces your living.
Eight weeks ago two people I love left for a journey, a situation, though honourable and brave, was out of my control. And in their departure my life collapsed under the weight of what they left behind. Work became all consuming. Anxiety became the new normal. The peaks and troughs of a happy life became the harsh constant of a heavy straight line unwavering and relentless.
The effect of stress in my life and how it impacts on my children is something I hardly think about as a parent, until it is staring back at me wide eyed and terrified. The cold answers that are snapped back to their innocent questions. The dismissive and abrupt reflex, when all they want are cuddles and love. Exhaustion and anxiety replace love. And I become a mother I don’t want to be.
Sometimes it is the things we do not even know we are doing that parent our children the most. Not the well organised micromanaged parenting that falls neatly out of the pages of a craft book or all shiny and filtered on Instagram. No, it is the parenting that catches us off guard, human and vulnerable that leaves us gasping for air.
In my desperation to clutch at anything that felt within my control I fixed the cuckoo clock and placed it back up on the wall. As I walked away I heard the slow, soft tick, tick, tick, air.
It wasn’t so much a conscious wanting, but an unconscious absence of everything else that has taken over me these past eight weeks. I’m working harder than I ever have to keep everything in check. On some days it has felt like it is working. On other days it has only felt like it is failing.
A calendar is up on the wall. Days are being crossed off. The watercolour background becoming vibrant again. We are still watching the time, but now with a little more kindness. Kindness for the time and place I am in and more importantly, kindness to each other.
The cuckoo clock is the antidote to all that I am feeling. I clutch at the tempo and believe that everything will be ok with each tick of the hands. The clock is the reminder of days that lingered before and days that lie in promise ahead. And lately I wonder if it was the best present after all.
Do you have a cuckoo clock?
How do you manage stress when it comes into your life?